Road to San Siro Snowed Over

Trip Start Feb 11, 2012
Trip End Feb 19, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It would almost have been fitting if I was remembered as that bloke from Bosham who got wiped out by a snowplough at the top of a mountain. This morning I used up another of my nine lives and this evening ended with a pretty definite sign that I should not do anymore cycling this week.

The alarm went off at 6am again.  "Some holiday!" rang out loud as I crawled out of bed to once again pull on the lycra and start layering up.  I did not like what I could hear going on outside.  I could not see out of the windows through the ice and the wind was battering the hotel.  The cylindrical shape of the building resulted in an eerie grown as the gusts hit us from all sides.  Having not made it down the pass last night, I was again starting off behind schedule.  At this point I was not actually sure how far it was to Milan and more importantly whether I could make it there in time for kick off without quitting and jumping on a train or bus.

Trying to give myself every chance I stumbled downstairs at 7 only to find all doors locked and nobody around.  Had I been left up here on my own last night?  Has everyone been frozen and lie dead in their rooms?  Either way I could not leave, so instead I spent a frustrating hour back in my room until I heard a car draw up outside.  It was the first traffic I had seen this morning.  Finding a small break in the ice that layered the window, I worked out why.  The road had been snowed over.  Cars sat buried in deep drifts and the wind continued to bring in fresh powder with every gust.  How was I going to get out of this one?

The lovely Italian lady who had somehow managed to drive up the mountain produced a great breakfast which despite delaying me further, prepared me well for the battle ahead.  When I adjusted the final layers and rigged up the bike lighting, I grabbed the front door and braced myself for what I was about to feel.  The only part of my body which was exposed was my face and this immediately felt the full force of the wind whipping in the snow.  Visibility was almost down to zero and there was zero chance of getting on the bike.  I found the road using only the red and white depth markers which peeped out of the deep snow.  This was ridiculous!

Visibility is bad when a snowplough the size of a dustcart, with big flashing orange lights, has to take emergency action to miss you because you didn't see it coming.  The Italian driver was not slow to jump out of his cab and then, with true Italian passion, 'lose the plot’.  I think he said something along the lines of “Mamma Mia! What on earth are you doing up here in a snow storm pushing a bike?  I nearly snow ploughed you.  You are an IDIOT!”.

I didn’t know what to do.  Should I turn back and take shelter in the hotel until it calms down or should I just get off the mountain as quickly as possible?  With my sights firmly fixed on the San Siro, there was only one option, run!  This was obviously not easy.  Underfoot was icy and several times  the wind actually lifted the lightweight aluminium alloy frame bicycle off the ground, flipping it over onto its back.

I knew if I could just get down 500m or so, maybe the storm would ease and the road might be clear enough to ride.  After a long tunnel, things were looking up.  I could get on the bike and start freewheeling, with the wind and snow now manageable.  I had to concentrate on the braking and getting my lines right around the twisting descent but with no traffic daring to take on the pass, I had 20km of exhilarating downhill.

My joy was short lived however.  Dormodossola was where I had hoped to reach yesterday.  After two hours I finally rolled into town, already drained from the mornings challenges.  When I saw the sign to Milano I felt like throwing in the towel.  The distance was given as 150km (almost 100 miles).  It was already 10 am and kick off was now in just 10 hours.  It didn’t help that after a couple of miles out of town on the main road to Milan, I was being beeped at by everybody.  I knew that this probably meant that this was a road I shouldn’t be on and when a nice man  pulled over to say “very dangerous tunnels”, I knew I had to start scouting around for alternatives.  This all meant for further delays and obviously more obstacles.

I was throwing toys out of the pram in all directions (Polly has seen this once or twice in the last year when we were faced with similar problems). I had no map, no energy and even less time.  The little towns presented tricky one way systems through cobbled streets and traffic lights at every junction.  This was turning into 'The Italian Job' but without the Minis.  Fortunately the towns were all lined up along a long valley, a hollow which I presumed led to the great lakes.  This would get me closer to Milan and so with a clear road ahead I started to get the legs pumping.  There was no time for rest stops and I was now starting to average about 17mph. 

When I reached Lake Mergazzo I knew I was making up time.  Half an hour later I entered Baveno, a town which became more and more familiar.  I then remembered that Polly and I had spent a week camping here a few years ago on the banks of Laga Maggiore.  It was as beautiful today as it was then and as I sped around the shore road with the sun reflecting off the magical waters and the fresh February breeze replenishing depleted energy levels, I could start to believe again. The antique Trek was in its element, performing like a highly tuned state of the art super machine.  I was not alone, the Italians were out in force enjoying a Wednesday ride around the lake.  I am not sure they were impressed with my battered mountain wear, the spanking shiny lycra they modelled was much more suited to the majestic surroundings.  Never-the-less, I was getting there and getting there fast.  Another sign indicated only 50 miles to Milan.

The next 4 hours were spent pedalling hard and at almost 5pm I entered the chaos of Milanese rush hour.  I had to ride fast with the traffic and hold my ground.  I was riding blind now but seemed to remember that the stadium was on the North west of town.  This matched my way in and when I saw the first sign to San Siro Stadium, I knew that it was only a couple of miles left.

I parked the bike, made a change of clothes and soaked up the atmosphere which grew as more and more Rosssaneri supporters turned up.  Arsenal supporters were channelled in off buses liked caged animals.  The way they chanted and jumped around only reinforced there social standing as animals and made me feel very good about arriving by bicycle.  The Milanese were much more cultured, enjoying an espresso and pannini before they entered the stadium to watch their heroes.

Inside The San Siro was everything I thought it would be.  I watched it on Football Italia 20 years ago, and now here I was, hanging on from the impossibly high terraces.  The roars as the Rossaneri team was announced stretched the eardrums.

Arsenal were convincingly outplayed by the Italian masters.  Ramsey, Roscisky and co. looked like schoolboys against the red and blacks.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic was pulling all the strings and Robinho was applying the finishing touches.  The bullet volley off the crossbar from Prince-Boateng was Champions League material and at half time the Gunners sneaked back to their changing room trailing by two.

The second half was a similar story, another Robinho goal and a Zlatan penalty left it 4-0 at the full time whistle.  There was something very satisfying about the way in which AC Milan had won at such a canter, as if they knew what I had been through crossing The Alps and wanted to give me a footballing treat.  Maybe if the Arsenal players had been made to pedal over The Simplon Pass, they may have been more up for the fight.

If I needed confirmation that this was the end of the road for this trip, I found it when we left the stadium.  My trusty (if not very comfortable) Trek bike had been nicked.  As we speak there is an Italian scally trying to sell a very elegant racing bike which has performed in three Ironmans, acted as a seating plan for our wedding and clocked up well over 10,000 miles.  It looks like it will be a much less adventurous trip across The Alps back to Geneva on the train tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Cycled:  115 and that will do for now
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HBK on

Nice work Mikey.

Now for a hearty meal and to rest those aching limbs.

triciagick on

Is there anywhere left in the world where you can expect to return and find ones locked up bike where you left it. Whoever you are out there with such a special bike, you have a mother-in-law's wrath on your back and you are not the sort of person worth spending any time thinking about! Very, very poor show.
However - on the bright side - we have a daughter thrilled at the thought that her very special husband will be back in Bosham tomorrow - excellent.
You'll be missed tonight Mikey as the Gicks are having a meal at the Swan - we'll toast your safe journey home and your huge achievement in reaching Milan against all odds. You really are a star!! XX

Charlotte on

Oh no, that is such a shame about your bike :-( what a meanie!!! However, I am so pleased you have made it safe and sound - we tried to spot you during the game and unfortunately failed but we all think you are a hero. Look forward to hearing the stories which didn't make it to the blog :-) Safe journey home. Cxx

Barney on

It sounds AWSOME!!!!!!! How crazy were the crowd at the game?and was it loud?

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